26 Sep 2015

A win is a win for the All Blacks

5:48 pm on 26 September 2015

OPINION: The All Blacks avoided a shock in their opening game of the Rugby World Cup and in the end that's all that matters.

English referee Wayne Barnes RWC2015.

English referee Wayne Barnes RWC2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

While they were under pressure in the first half, the defending champions were always showing enough to me to suggest that there wasn't going to be another upset.

Gone are the days when we should expect the All Blacks to razzle-dazzle their way through every game, score six tries and end a game in a festive atmosphere.

This is the World Cup, all we should be focused on is winning, remember we won the 2011 title 8-7.

The All Blacks needed a big second half to beat Argentina 26-16 in their World Cup opener at Wembley after the South Americans started with plenty of aggression.

While they were under the pump the All Blacks actually played reasonably well, kicking for territory and controlling the ball a lot of the time.

The Pumas were quick off their defensive line and forced the New Zealanders into errors and having two players sin-binned didn't help the men in black.

With the majority of the World Cup record crowd of just over 89,000 baying for another upset, the Pumas had their tails up in the first half, scored the only try and took a one point lead into half-time.

However, I felt that like as they've managed to do many times before, all the All Blacks needed to do was weather the storm and eventually they'd be sailing into a calm harbour and that proved to be the case.

All Black flanker Sam Cane RWC2015

All Black flanker Sam Cane RWC2015 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Dan Carter controlled the game well from first five but the Argentinian backline was so flat that the New Zealanders were unable to mount much on attack, instead they resorted to kicking which was largely uncontested and the Pumas were able to mop anything up.

The All Blacks got themselves into a number of try-scoring positions but were let down by errors, they'll be better next time around.

As expected the Argentinians put the New Zealand scrum under pressure early on and they won a couple of penalties, but like anything in sport, a side needs to sustain that pressure and the Pumas were unable to do that.

The turning point came early in the second half, the All Blacks made substitutions and their superior depth and fitness off the bench was decisive.

Argentina were unable to maintain their levels, both intensity and accuracy and by the end the All Blacks were dominating territory and possession.

It has been obvious from the start of the tournament that the referees were going to be harsh on infringements around the ruck and maul and that every player needed to be cautious.

So it was particularly disappointing that both captain Richie McCaw and veteran centre Conrad Smith were sin-binned for silly misdemeanors.

Probably not a lot needs to be said in the All Blacks de-brief about the yellow cards, it involved two of their most senior players, but it does remind everyone that the video ref is watching everything and will stop play at any time to inform the on-field referee of any issues.

The lineout was good, the scrum came right, there was a fair old scrap in the contact area and it appears they got through without any injuries.

It had been five weeks since their last Test, so perhaps a scratchy effort could have been expected, they'll be better because of today's hit-out.

Just the test the All Blacks needed to get them on track at this World Cup and in the next two games against Namibia and Georgia they can give the entire squad some game time.

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